As I watched the scene in Tyler Perry’s movie, The Single Moms’ Club, where Jane lost out on the race for a promotion at work because of her gender and role as a mother, I could not help but think about how far women have come. Women have struggled with and have conquered gender biases and debates throughout history.
Before 1916, Canadian women did not have the right to vote. When women in Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan were allowed to vote, they could only vote in provincial elections. One wonders, if women are good enough to vote in the province, why not at the federal level? It was not until 1918 that women had full suffrage. Women were considered uneducated and incapable of engaging in intelligent discussions. They were homemakers, cleaners, and tag-alongs who depended on their husbands for everything. The few who were brave enough to challenge the status quo and got into the workforce faced many challenges, contending with unequal pay, sexual harassment, discrimination, and prejudice.
Today, women have changed that narrative. They are making giant leaps in modern history and are becoming equal with men on every count. We see women occupying mid and senior-level positions in organizations. Canadian women are making significant contributions in business, politics, non-profit and corporate world, and immigrant women are not left out. Despite the challenges that come with settling in a new country, such as discrimination against foreign credentials, unaffordable childcare, and the lack of traditional family support, among others, immigrant women are making headlines with their success stories across Canada.
These success stories are possible because of support from dedicated organizations like the Women’s Business Hub in Saskatchewan, Dress for Success across Canada, Immigrant Women’s Counselling in Manitoba, Alberta Network of Immigrant Women, Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network, and Pacific Immigrant Resources Society in British Columbia, amongst others. These organizations and many others cover the whole gambit of empowerment, cultural adaptation, and self-confidence, all aimed at helping immigrant women succeed in Canada.
On April 17, 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed to protect the fundamental rights of Canadians, irrespective of gender. Since then, April 17 has been celebrated as Equality Day. Are the genders equal when it comes to immigrant service delivery? Do men not face gender-specific settlement challenges? Why are there few to no dedicated organizations helping immigrant men? Is success the prerogative of only women?
Whether through school or any of the several immigration pathways, migrating to Canada presupposes a certain level of education and financial resources. For many immigrant families, the man was the sole breadwinner who also paid for services that made his family comfortable. He didn’t have to be a hands-on father or handyman when he could hire a nanny or tradesperson. These services are cheap in most third world countries. However, such ‘luxurious’ are not affordable in Canada. The man suddenly finds himself in a situation where he has to do school runs, participate in extracurricular activities with the kids, share bills with his wife, fix things around the house, and have assigned tasks at home. Also, finding out that immigrants do not get the proverbial golden fleece on a platter of gold might have bruised his ego. These are realities most immigrants wake up to in Canada.
The man, often ill-prepared, finds himself in a place where he has to take whatever job is available in Canada. Whether cleaning, factory work, fast food delivery, warehouse, personal shopper, driving, security, or labourer, he takes it to pay the bills. Educated refugees and immigrants who formerly had great paying jobs back home find it frustrating that they cannot obtain the same jobs here and must settle for less in the interim. So, it is very likely that the security man at the building you often visit is a graduate, your taxi driver, a tech wiz, and the cashier behind the counter at the grocery store, a doctor. This situation can affect their mental health, leading to unnecessary and avoidable fights in the home. Feelings of bitterness and resentment replace the euphoria of relocating. The man is not handling this change in circumstance as good as the woman. And, there are no support groups or settlement agencies skilled in helping him cope either.
Women have been subjugated for far too long, and it is commendable that various government agencies and non-profit organizations support and empower them. However, it is time to pay some attention to the men regarding immigrant service delivery. In the spirit of equality, immigrant men need support, empowerment, and redirection as they try to adapt to the Canadian culture. Immigrant-serving organizations need to organize seminars, support groups, and functional skills training programs to get the men adapting and achieving their full potential.